It was amazing and wonderful to learn that Gustav Holst had made a complete, electrical recording of his orchestral masterpiece, "The Planets." It was actually one of the earliest electrical recordings made in the U.K., dating from 2 July 1926. He had made a few acoustical recordings of other works before that. I don't know why Holst didn't make more recordings, especially with the electrical process. The breakthrough of using a single carbon microphone to transfer the sounds to a recording machine, which was perfected in early 1925, greatly expanded the capabilities of recording an orchestra. With the old acoustical process it was very difficult to record a full orchestra and some sounds simply didn't record very well. All of this changed when the technicians finally found a way to use the electrical process, used as early as 1920 to record radio programs, to make commercial discs.
Holst's recording with the London Symphony Orchestra appears to have been made in a larger studio, certainly not a concert hall. There were a few early ventures in recording live performances at venues such as the Crystal Palace and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Listening to this recording, it's clear that room acoustics were rather dry. Nevertheless, the carbon microphone managed to pick up quite a bit and this definitely gives a good idea of the performance.
The music itself is played with great emotion and quite a variety of moods, quite in keeping with what Holst intended since he was conveying the astrological associations with the seven planets other than the Earth itself. He wrote this before Pluto was discovered and, as it ultimately turned out, Pluto isn't really a full planet anyway. The music has always been quite enjoyable and it is a real treat to hear the composer conduct it. That said, there are a full flubs which were included in the original 78-rpm discs. It was, of course, necessary (in the days before tape) to completely rerecord a side if something went wrong and whether that was done in this case is hard to say. For the most part, the orchestra plays quite well and we get a good idea of what Holst wanted.
Holst's daughter Imogen wrote many years ago, when the recording was reissued on a modern LP, that the only real problem with the recording was trying to capture the gradual fade-out of the women's chorus at the end of Neptune. It was almost possible to achieve the real fade-out that the composer intended, which was usually done in concerts by having the women slowly walk away and/or even closing doors. So, the solution, at some point, was simply to slowly turn down the volume until the disc ended. It appears the sound had not been turned down quite enough when the capacity of the 12-inch 78-rpm disc had been reached.
Overall, however, this is a great musical experience and Holst's interpretation of his own music should serve as a model and guide to others.